The Trump Camp Was Machiavelli Meets the Three Stooges

·5-min read
Photo credit: Drew Angerer - Getty Images
Photo credit: Drew Angerer - Getty Images

There’s never a good result when you concoct a screenplay in which Machiavelli’s The Prince will be acted out by the Three Stooges. But the evidence is piling up that something like that was what passed for a national government in this country for four years. The New York Times gives us a deeper look at what a snake pit Camp Runamuck was, albeit a snake pit that sheltered some of the dumbest, clumsiest snakes in all of snakedom, a writhing ball of Buffoon Vipers.

The campaign included a planned sting operation against Mr. Trump’s national security adviser at the time, H.R. McMaster, and secret surveillance operations against F.B.I. employees, aimed at exposing anti-Trump sentiment in the bureau’s ranks.

The operations against the F.B.I., run by the conservative group Project Veritas, were conducted from a large home in the Georgetown section of Washington that rented for $10,000 per month. Female undercover operatives arranged dates with the F.B.I. employees with the aim of secretly recording them making disparaging comments about Mr. Trump.

This, of course, was exactly the plan that Gordon Liddy presented to John Mitchell with regard to his plans to blackmail delegates at the 1972 Democratic National Convention, except that Liddy was going to rent a yacht. On one of the White House tapes, White House counsel John Dean told President Richard Nixon:

So I came over and Liddy laid out a million-dollar plan that was the most incredible thing I have ever laid my eyes on: all in codes, and involved black bag operations, kidnapping, providing prostitutes, uh, to weaken the opposition, bugging, uh, mugging teams. It was just an incredible thing.

This was what Camp Runamuck handed over to…James O’Keefe. (Comparing O’Keefe to Liddy is like comparing Huckleberry Hound to the Hound of the Baskervilles.) And it was reportedly directed first at H.R. McMaster, then the national security advisor. Which does not mean there was no real muscle behind the effort.

Central to the effort, according to interviews, was Richard Seddon, a former undercover British spy who was recruited in 2016 by the security contractor Erik Prince to train Project Veritas operatives to infiltrate trade unions, Democratic congressional campaigns and other targets. He ran field operations for Project Veritas until mid-2018.

O’Keefe is a burlesque figure, but Seddon and Prince are serious people, Prince being one of the least excusable human beings on the planet. And then there is some dynastic ratfcking going on in there, too.

Whether any of Mr. Trump’s White House advisers had direct knowledge of the campaign is unclear, but one of the participants in the operation against Mr. McMaster, Barbara Ledeen, said she was brought on by someone “with access to McMaster’s calendar.”

In 2015, Barbara Ledeen, a close ally of disgraced General Michael Flynn, tried to start her own investigation of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails. As an aide to then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, Ledeen was deeply involved as an administration* mole during the early stages of the Russia investigation. She is the second wife of Michael Ledeen, and there scarcely has been a Republican presidential scandal in the past 40 years that Michael Ledeen hasn’t had a hand in. In 1980, he wrote some spurious articles for the New Republic, which was having a very bad decade, alleging that the brother of President Jimmy Carter was on the payroll of both Muammar Gaddaffi and the PLO. The Wall Street Journal later reported that the stories had been part of an anti-Carter disinformation campaign.

Photo credit: Cynthia Johnson - Getty Images
Photo credit: Cynthia Johnson - Getty Images

During the Reagan Administration, Michael Ledeen pushed the notion that the Bulgarian government had been behind the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, which subsequent reporting has proven to be more moonshine. Later, he was the guy who introduced Manuchar Ghorbanifar to Reagan aide Robert MacFarlane, which put Ledeen in the middle of the Iran-Contra scandal.

Moving on, during the second Bush administration, Ledeen pushed the fable about Iraq’s buying yellowcake uranium from Niger. Ledeen always has been a true believer in the redemptive power of American imperial violence. In criticising Brent Scowcroft’s warning against the invasion of Iraq, Ledeen wrote:

One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today. If we wage the war effectively, we will bring down the terror regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and either bring down the Saudi monarchy or force it to abandon its global assembly line to indoctrinate young terrorists.

This, it is safe to say, did not age well. Thank god Ledeen never got the war on Iran that would have set him ascending to glory.

I dredge all this up in the context of the NYT’s latest revelations because, once again, this is being cast as yet another aberrant episode on the part of the former president*. The Ledeens have found work with every Republican administration since 1980, and Barbara Ledeen found a job with the chairman of Senate Judiciary. When Camp Runamuck went looking for Beltway ratfckers, they came up with some of the same people that Reagan and both Bushes called. The rot is old, chronic, and deep in the wood.

You Might Also Like

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting